Time for another new recipe Wednesday…this time with a cozy, ready for fall Butternut Squash and Sausage Pasta Bake! I am in love with using butternut squash as the base for pasta sauce, especially in the fall. I even added a little bit of spice to this one to help match the heat of the Italian sausage. You can certainly skip the red pepper flakes if you don’t love spice, but I don’t recommend it 😉 As for the protein here, I used a combination of hot Italian sausage and ground chicken. It’s a great balance of flavor and lean protein.
I used Sagne a Pezzi noodles for this casserole and they were PERFECT! I found it at a local Italian market here in Alexandria – it’s basically like broken pieces of lasagna which is just the right texture to hold onto the sauce and meat. Plus it’s just pretty, right?! As for the cheese on top – certainly don’t limit yourself to plain Parmesan. I didn’t! I used a blend of Parmesan, Asiago, and Romano which I loved because it packs a ton of flavor.
For making the sauce, you can use an immersion blender like this or you can dump it all into a blender (careful with blending hot stuff though!). I personally prefer my immersion blender here because it’s less hassle and less cleanup than my Vitamix.
Here are some goodies I used to help make this recipe. Note: these are Amazon Affiliate links.
Butternut Squash and Sausage Pasta Bake
- 17.6 oz dry sagne a pezzi pasta (500 g)
- 1 lb 98% lean ground chicken
- 1 lb Wegmans Italian Classics Organic Hot Pork Italian Sausage
- 5 oz baby spinach (142 g)
- 1/2 vidalia onion, sliced (127 g)
- 1/2 cup shaved parmesan cheese (or combo of parmesan, asiago, and romano cheeses) (40 g)
- 1 tbsp olive oil, divided
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- salt and pepper to taste
Butternut Squash Sauce
- 4 lb butternut squash, peeled and seeds removed (1100 g)
- 2 cups reserved pasta water (16 fl oz)
- 1 cup half and half (8 fl oz)
- 1 cup dry white wine, like Sauvignon Blanc (8 fl oz)
- 1 medium shallot, sliced (68 g)
- 1 1/2 tbsp fresh chopped sage
- 1 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 tsp Oh My Spice! Lemon Pepper Seasoning
- 1 tsp ground mustard
- 1/2 tsp Better Than Boulion Low Sodium Chicken Stock
- 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
Boil the pasta. Bring about 2 quarts of water to a rolling boil and add 1 tsp of kosher salt. Then add pasta and return to a boil, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes. Reserve 2 cups of the water, then immediately drain. Toss with 1/2 tbsp olive oil. Set aside.
Brown the chicken and sausage. Turn the stove to medium high and add remaining 1/2 tbsp of olive oil to the pot. Once the oil is hot and shimmery, add sausage and ground chicken. Break meat apart with a wooden spoon as it cooks, continuing until the meat is cooked through. Drain the excess fat from the pot, then remove to a paper towel lined bowl. Set aside.
Make the sauce. Add butter to the pot over medium-high heat until melted and bubbling. Add shallots and sauté until softened, about 2-3 minutes. Add sage until fragrant, then add wine to deglaze. Add reserved pasta water, chicken bouillon, seasonings, fresh thyme, and butternut squash. Cover and boil for 8-10 minutes until squash is fork tender.
Pre-heat oven to 400°. Spray and 9×13 inch casserole dish with non-stick cooking spray and set aside.
Remove the thyme sprigs, then using an immersion blender, blend until smooth. Add half and half and blend again until well combined. Add spinach and stir in to coat completely in sauce. Then add meat and pasta and mix until well combined. Add salt to taste and mix again.
Build the casserole. Add the pasta mixture to the prepared casserole dish. Top with shaved cheese.
Bake and serve. Bake at 400° for 25-35 minutes or until cheese is melted and the top begins to turn golden brown. Garnish with fried sage leaves before serving, if desired.
- Make it ahead: Complete steps 1-3 and 5 as directed above. Place the pasta mixture in the prepared casserole dish and allow to cool, then cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight or freeze for up to 3 months.
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